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Built In: 11 Essential leadership qualities for the future of work

April 25, 2022

Effective leaders use a transparent decision-making process informed by the minimum number of key perspectives, said Richard Hawkes, author of Navigate the Swirl: 7 Crucial Business Conversations for Business and founder of consulting company Growth River.

Decision making traditionally takes one of three shapes, he said. One leader, usually a manager, makes a decision with minimal input. Or a designated decision maker handles a task. The third option: The decision is made via consensus, with team members having veto power. In all three scenarios, compliance is expected.

The sweet spot, Hawkes said, lies somewhere between autocratic and consultative. “It is not ‘consensus,’” he said.

However decisions are made, they have to consider who’s doing the work, said James of 84.51˚. “Pushing the decisions out to those closest to the work has had a significant impact on speed and responsiveness,” he said.

James, a former U.S. Coast Guard officer, noting that decision making has changed, to collaborative and democratized from top-down and prescriptive.

“As a leader, this means you spend less time prescribing and more time setting a direction and clearing hurdles,” he said.

“It is hard to make decisions without a healthy dose of self-confidence and conviction,” said James. Confidence, too, has morphed with the times. “There is a much larger focus today on vulnerability, or what I like to think of as being genuinely authentic as a leader and a person,” he said. “It’s less about being steadfast in your direction and more about being confident in your ability to adjust to changing circumstances, learn from setbacks and incorporate new and better ideas.”

Right on, said Vidmob’s Collmer. “Twenty years ago, a self-confident leader knew everything — or at least seemed to,” he said. “Their word was unquestioned and unquestionable.” Today, confidence means transparency and vulnerability, including the willingness to admit when leaders don’t have the answer and courage to empower teams to speak up when something isn’t right. “This new type of self-confidence is far harder, but I believe it leads to a better-operating company,” Collmer said.

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